In today’s tech-heavy world, checks have become a lesser-used form of payment. However, they are still used enough where it’s essential to know how to write a check and how to keep track of the payments. How to write a check is a simple process once you know the steps you need to follow. Below are six simple steps to complete the process and other valuable tips.
Step 1: Date the Check
The first step in writing a check is to put the date in the space provided in the upper right-hand corner. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can be crucial if any payments need to be verified. Most check writers will use the MM/DD/YYYY format for the date. Most people will put the current date, but if you don’t want the check to be cleared until a certain date, you can postdate it. A check cannot be cashed until the date you write, so using postdated check will ensure the money is in your account until a least the date your write.
Step 2: Write Who the Check is For (Payee)
The next step when learning how to write a check is to write out who the payment is for. There will be a “Pay to the order of” line in the middle of the check. Here you can write the name of the person, company, or organization you are making a payment to. If you are not sure, you can make the check out to “Cash,” but be aware then anyone that gets their hands on the check can deposit it.
Step 3: Write the Payment Amount in Numbers
Your next step when writing a check is to write the payment amount in numbers. A box will be provided after the “Pay to the Order of” line. Many will have the dollar sign ($) in front of it. Make sure the amount is legible, so there is no confusion about how much the payment is for. Write all digits including the cent’s after a decimal point, even if they are .00.
Step 4: Write the Payment Amount in Words
Below the “Pay to the Order of” line will be another blank line. Here you will write out the same payment amount as the previous step, only in words. For the cents proportion, many people write a fraction to save space. For example, if the payment amount is $145.67, you would write “One Hundred Forty-Five and 67/100”. Many people will then strike a line from the end of the words to the end of the line provided for security reasons.
Step 5 (Optional): Write a Memo
Step five in how to write a check is typically optional. At the bottom left of a check will be a “Memo” line. Here you can note what exactly the payment is for. There is no formal need for this, and you can write anything you want. For example, you might write something like “Monthly Rent” or “Cable Bill” or “Internet.” It’s mostly a reminder to yourself.
In some cases, companies might require you to put a loan number, account number, or other identifying information here. They do this to be sure the payment is getting applied correctly. They will typically let you know if that is needed.
Step 6: Sign A Check
Lastly, you’ll need to sign it, the check that is. There will be a line at the bottom right-hand corner of the check where you can sign your name. By signing the check, you essentially agree to make the payment. If the check is not signed, banks will not accept them.
Just like any other payment type, there are ways to protect yourself when writing checks. Here are a few how to write a check security tips.
When writing a check, you should always use a pen. Using a pencil would open up all sorts of options for would-be crooks to change payment amounts.
No “Cash” Payments
As mentioned above, if you don’t know precisely who the payment is to, you can write “Cash,” but this will allow anyone to cash the check, rightful recipient or not. Therefore, if possible, you should avoid using “Cash” in the “Pay to the order of” line so that you know your payment is going to the right recipient.
Don’t Sign Blank Checks
Never, ever, under any circumstances should you sign a blank check, even to someone you trust. This essentially allows them to write in any amount they want without you agreeing to it. Always fill in the payment amount before signing a check.
Use All of the Space For Amount Sections
When writing the payment amount in both the number and word sections, always use all the space available. Again, for the word section, write a line from the end of your words to the end of the line to make sure nothing can be added to the check after it leaves your hands.
Don’t Send By Mail Alone
When mailing a check, you should do so securely. By that, I mean don’t put just the check in the envelope. Envelopes can often be seen through, and someone can take the check before it gets delivered. Instead, put the check in a card, wrap a piece of paper around it or do anything else to make sure someone would not easily be able to tell there is a check in the mail.
Use Fewer Checks
Although it’s important to know how to write a check, they are not the most secure payment method. Many electronic payment methods are more secure and harder to intercept or forge. If possible, use one of the more secure payment methods.
Bonus Useful Tip: Account and Routing Numbers
With the above in mind, many times, when setting up electronic payments linking to your checking account, you need to know the checking account number and routing number to complete the setup. Most of us don’t have these memorized. You can find both numbers in the bottom left corner of any check for easy reference.
Balancing Your Checkbook
While learning how to write a check is important, equally as important is making sure you keep good records of the checks you are writing. Records keeping is essential to make sure you aren’t overcharged for anything. You can prove that you provided payment if there is a dispute. You can also track any income to your account in your checkbook.
Track Check Number
On the very top right corner of any check is a check number. Make sure that you record this number in your checkbook so that it can be matched with any deposited check.
Track the Amount
Enter the amount of the payment made or received if you are tracking both. If you are tracking both, you can easily keep a running balance of what should be in your bank account.
Track What The Payment Was For
Similar to the memo section of the check, write down exactly what the payment was for. This, along with the check number, is useful when matching up payments with your bank statements.
Reconcile with Bank Statements
Each month, you should receive statements from your bank either via hardcopy in the mail or electronically. When tracking your money, you should go back into your checkbook and match up to any checks you wrote to make sure they were deposited. Additionally, you can track any other income or expenses listed by the bank to ensure there are no errors.
Checks are not as commonly used as they once were, but it’s still important to know how to write a check. Many contractors and other service providers still prefer them as a payment method. It costs them nothing to set up, and they can easily be tracked. When writing checks, make sure to use proper security precautions and always keep a record of your payments in your checkbook.
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he’s not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, playing video games, or just playing around with his kids.